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Screen Icons: Dirk Bogarde in July

Optimum Home Entertainment have announced the UK DVD release of Screen Icons: Dirk Bogarde on 23rd July 2007 priced at £44.99. This 7-disc set brings together a range of fascinating performances from the 1950s and ‘60s heyday in British Cinema including The Blue Lamp, Hunted, The Sleeping Tiger, The Spanish Gardener, Victim, The Servant and Accident.

Derek Van den Bogaerde was born in Hampstead in 1921 to a half-Belgian father - Art Editor of the Times - and a Scottish mother who had herself once been an actress. His father had wanted him to follow in his footsteps, but Derek chose the stage over journalism. He made his professional debut at the Q Theatre in 1940 and joined a repertory company in Amersham before enlisting in the Army the following year.

After the war he returned to acting, and was soon under contract, as Dirk Bogarde, to Rank – an arrangement that would last for 14 years. His first role of note came as the hoodlum who kills a policeman in The Blue Lamp, not the last time he would excel as a character both charming and neurotic; attractive and villainous. Basil Dearden’s film was the box office smash of 1950.

In Hunted (1952) and The Spanish Gardener (1956) Bogarde starred alongside child actor Jon Whitely. Both films told of an unlikely but genuine friendship that blossoms between adult and child in the midst of extreme and tragic circumstances. In Hunted Bogarde plays a violent fugitive who abducts a small, mistreated boy as insurance. The Spanish Gardener is the story of a diplomat (Michael Hordern), who is separated from his wife and obsessively over-protective towards his son, not allowing him to interact properly with children his own age or in fact with anyone. When José (Dirk Bogarde) is hired as the gardener, his friendly attitude towards the boy sparks off violent jealousy in the father. Sandwiched in between these two films was Bogarde’s first collaboration with the black-listed Hollywood director Joseph Losey, Sleeping Tiger (1954). All three of these films are new to DVD in the UK.

1954 also saw Bogarde soar to prominence as a matinée idol in Doctor in the House, the first of Rank’s hugely successful series featuring Dr Simon Sparrow. However, it was not until the expiry of his contract with the Organisation in 1961 that Bogarde felt truly able to pursue the more complex art-house subjects that provided a bigger challenge to his acting skills than those that had already brought him commercial success.

Then, more than a decade after The Blue Lamp, he and Dearden were to reunite for the seminal Victim (1961), which proved to be a watershed in Bogarde’s career, as well as in the history of cinema itself. Thanks in part to a post-war police crackdown on homosexuality (which was still illegal at the time), blackmail of respectable gay men had become increasingly prevalent. Victim’s central character is a barrister who eventually decides to risk both his career and his marriage by exposing the injustices of his situation. Highly controversial for the time in presenting a gay man as its central, sympathetic character, the film helped to fuel the debate on social and legal attitudes towards homosexuality, which was partially decriminalised six years later.

This box-set features two more collaborations with Joseph Losey, from scripts by Harold Pinter: The Servant (1963), which explores the power dynamics between a rich, weak-willed bachelor (James Fox) and his contemptuous manservant (Bogarde); and Accident (1967), in which Bogarde plays an Oxford professor having a mid-life crisis whose involvement with a student has tragic consequences. Both pictures are now regarded as classics.

Extras on the set include…

Victim: Dirk Bogarde in Conversation extended interview / Original theatrical trailer / Image gallery

Accident: Making Of documentary / trailer

The box-set also includes a comprehensive booklet featuring poems and sketches by Bogarde, a complete filmography and an extract from the authorised biography by John Coldstream.

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